Turning Japanese – Part Twelve

Today is our last day in this gloriously complex  land.

After a breakfast of coffee, we took a train into the downtown area and after walking past a million restaurants, chose one to go into.
Now up till now, we’ve been hesitant to go into the ones where a bench encircles the kitchen and you sit there and eat. Similar to a bar. You’re all facing to cooks.

Today we did it though. We walked in, ordered from the machine and sat at that counter. A man came and took our tickets and gave us some water.

I think we ordered some kind of beef bowl but I’m not sure.

The meat was ok, the rice was delish!! I wish I knew what sauce was in there because it was really tasty.

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So we ate our food with chopsticks even though there was a spoon option and we were in full view of other diners. Just like locals!

Hubby says if we hadn’t had the comfort of the food court we would have graduated sooner.

Now we’re at the airport waiting to leave. This has really been an amazing experience.

I’ve found Japanese food to be different than I expected. Some I loved, some I could do without (nobody say octopus ever again please!!!).

The people here have impressed me so much. So kind and polite.

I hope they don’t get influenced negatively by our Western ways.

Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

Stay tuned for regular Dining Diaries entries starting again soon!

Till next we chow…

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Turning Japanese – Part Nine

This morning I was so excited because today was Kyoto day!!

Here’s a tip, if you’re going to train into Kyoto, make sure you have a plan of what you want to see there BEFORE you get there.

I don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t have to have a plan. I thought we’d just get off the train and there would be scenic views upon scenic views.

What we did do is find an information map and decided to walk to the Imperial Palace. After all, we’d been to the one in Tokyo and that was interesting.

So we walked down there and only after we got there did we realise that it only opens a few days a year. So we couldn’t really see anything.

We then googled “Things to do in Kyoto” and decided to walk to the observation tower.
We found a few temples and shrines along the way.

At one place, the boars were said to have healing powers; in particular, for leg injuries.
Hubby has foot pain right now and I, being a runner, always have something pulled or not quite right, so we drank from the water and crossed our fingers!

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But this is a food blog so you’re probably waiting for me to write about what we ate…

Again, we found it hard to find a place. It’s not really difficult, there are a million places!! We just want to make sure we don’t miss out so we look at every single restaurant we can before deciding where to go…

And today, by the time we got to the Observation tower we were pretty tired and hungry and nothing sounded familiar so when we saw the Octopus Balls (takoyaki) franchise that we’d eaten at before, we went for it.

Don’t be shocked, but I’m not a seafood person. I ate the balls because it was familiar but by the end I was almost gagging. This has NOTHING to do with the food being produced but everything to do with me not eating seafood. The food itself is exceptional quality and anyone else probably would have loved it but I crunched down on one bit too many and I’d be happy if I never see an octopus ball again.

This evening however, proved to be the unexpected highlight of the day!
It started off though with a slight disappointment. We wanted to have dinner at a place called Hidays Texas BBQ. We had read a few reviews about it and it sounded good.
When we got there, we saw that it was closed. Argh!

As we were in the Dontonbori area, another area we’d read about, we decided to walk around there and eventually stumbled upon Red Rock!
When friends knew we were going to go to Japan, they said we MUST get beef bowls and Red Rock had beef bowls on their menu so how could we not.
We watched others ordering… this place has a similar system to the place we went to in Narita. We had to order and pay for our food outside of the restaurant, then give our ticket to someone inside, who sent it on to the kitchen.

I’m not sure exactly what we ordered. Hubby’s was “large” but as you can see from the pictures below, they seem the same size. We ended up sharing and they were BOTH delicious!! Probably the best things we’ve eaten since we’ve been in Japan although I keep saying that don’t I?
The rice was below the meat and there was some sauce through it that made it so delicious. I wish I could give you more information but my taste buds aren’t that refined and I don’t know what the menu actually said so I don’t want to give the wrong information. Just trust me that it was delicious!!


After our exciting dinner, we walked through the streets and took in more sights and sounds. This is such an amazing place. There’s always something new to see around the corner!

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Only a few more days left here now and I think we’re going to try to take in a baseball game at some stage!

For now, my bed awaits after a long and satisfying day.

Turning Japanese – Part Eight

We woke up to a drizzly day in Osaka. The first day we’ve had here with rain.
Not to worry, our airbnb host has umbrellas in our room so after googling a few places we wanted to visit, we were off… on foot…

I think you get to see a lot more if you go on foot. The only thing you have to be conscious of are the people on bicycles. I would love to know what the accident rate is here.

Our first stop was the Kuromon Market. This place is just amazing!!! Wall to wall people. We were there on a Sunday and I’m not sure how that compares to other times during the week but it was difficult to walk through!
I’ve heard that vendors come here to purchase produce for their restaurants.
If you were a seafood lover you would NOT want to leave this place!
Unfortunately, I’m not a seafood lover and the smell was making me feel ill, however, for everyone else, it was heaven.
I’ll share a few pics I took while in the market with you.

 

After wandering through the markets we found a place to have some lunch. I’ve seen this chain around the place in Tokyo and in Osaka – Italian Tomato – Yes, we went Western again.

Although I’ve been told Italian food is not that great here, I didn’t mind it.
I have been craving pasta and bread though so maybe that had something to do with it.
I chose a spaghetti bolognese
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The menu says that the meat is angus beef.

As I told hubby while I was eating it, if I’d been served this in Fasta Pasta, I probably wouldn’t have been happy however everything was ok. The pasta was ok, the sauce was ok… the parmasen cheese on top was ok…

As “ok” as it was, it was exactly what I wanted so I was happy with it.

Even as it repeated on me for the next couple of hours,  I was happy.

I love my pasta…

 

Hubby chose the doria with hashed beef and soft boiled egg. What is doria I hear you ask… Doria was originally created in France however now is found almost exclusively in Japan. It’s basically a rice gratin. The rice is either flavoured or topped with other ingredients such as bolognese sauce or sauteed prawns, covered in white suace and cheese and then grilled.FullSizeRender-32

 

Hubby was really happy with this. The egg was gloriously runny.

Unfortunately we hadn’t ordered bread with it otherwise it would have been good to mop up that egg with some bread.

There were quite a few people in this restaurant and all were using forks…. another comfort for me even though I’m becoming quite a pro with chopstickts.

 

 

 

FullSizeRender-40I’ve got to show you a pic of the napkins in this place as I thought they were pretty cute.

 

Don’t you just love them!! Loving, singing, eating.

 

It’s all about me and not necessarily in that order either!

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we left that place we got a scrumptious cake from the bakery next door.

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How could I go past it? It has my initial on the top!!!

It was filled with smooth sweet custard and such great value! This cake was only 100 yen.

The food here is just amazing.
Hubby and I walked to another food market which was about two kilometers away. Again, wall to wall people. Where do they all come from!!! We got another pastry from there and then walked back to our room for a little rest before dinner.

For dinner, we went to the same place we went to yesterday. We’d seen these enormous bowls of noodles going out of there yesterday and we wanted what they were having!
This time, when the server saw us coming up, he immediately got one of his work mates. Apparently the workmate spoke English.
I really applaud him for trying but we didn’t communicate. I pointed to what we wanted on the menu but I had no idea what it was. If I’d thought about it I would have taken a picture to share with you guys, then someone might have been able to tell me what we’d eaten!

In any case, two enormous bowls came out. They were full of noodles and veggies and it was so goddam tasty!! I just loved it!
I left my hand in the pic so you can get some perspective of how big this bowl was.

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And look at me using those chopsticks like a champion!! (Not really but it’s a photo and I can get away with writing that)

Tomorrow we’re hoping to get to Kyoto!! Can’t wait!

 

 

 

Turning Japanese – Part Seven

Osaka awaited us this morning.
With full confidence we left our lovely apartment and walked to the train station.
We were going to see Osaka Castle
No breakfast included in this accomodation apart from what we choose to provide for ourselves and as we’d gone grocery shopping we had the luxury of having a few coffees before we left our apartment!

We went to the Castle and took in the wonderful and awe inspiring sights. I’ve added a couple of pictures for you to get an idea of what we were looking at.

We had picked a couple of things we wanted to do in Osaka and one of them was to visit this mall that apparently went for kilometres… We were going to take the Osaka Loop line but once we googled, we saw it was only a couple of kilometres away so we walked there.

It was pretty interesting!! Lots of little shops and little food places. My stomach was starting to growl as apart from the coffee, we hadn’t eaten anything.

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After walking through the mall our hunger was building! We decided to put “food court” into google maps and go to the nearest one. That ended up being 2.5 kilometres away however once we got there, we saw it wasn’t what we consider a “food court” to be.
We were in the Hankyu building.
If you’re familiar with this building you may know that there isn’t a food court. There are plenty of restaurants in the basement level but not a food court as such – just a lot of restaurants – just as you’d see on the streets.
We went to the enquiry counter and they sent us to the 12th and 13th floor. They told us we’d find the “food court” there.
Once we got there we saw it wasn’t what we call a food court, and not only that, but these restaurants were definitely more hoity toity. Not what we were looking for in our walking clothes. But there were streams and streams of people lining up to go to them! There were so many people everywhere!!

So we went back down to the ground level and started walking back through the streets to find somewhere to have lunch. Disappointingly, some of the places we were interested in didn’t open until five. I’m not sure if that was because today is Saturday, or if that’s the way it always is.

We walked and walked and walked and finally fell into a place that had a picture of a sandwich roll on the window.
I think by this stage, I would have gone anywhere, even eaten octopus, just to be able to sit.

Very few people speak English here. They all say they speak a little, and they can get by with a few words but they can’t really communicate beyond a basic level. And that’s not a criticism!! Most people in Australia can only speak one language!
So hubby and I got a couple of “pizza’s” (similar to a sub or slice) and a premade sandwich.

The pizza was actually very good!! Now that could be because we were super tired and starving, having walked over eighteen kilometres at this point, but it was still very good and definitely hit the spot
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The sandwich was ok. Very thin and no crusts!! I love my crusts! Never take off the crust people it’s the best part!!

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Did you notice what is said on the sandwich?

How cute is that!

I wasn’t smiling until I actually read that message, but after, I was…

People here are just so courteous and nice. I wonder if I’m in some twilight zone. It just seems too perfect.

I made hubby walk all the way back to the apartment. Hubby and I decided to walk back to the apartment – all six kilometres, and before we got there, we stopped at the big supermarket near home and grabbed some treats AND a small bottle of Jim Beam (bargain price!) and a nice bottle of red for me.
Deeeeelicious and long overdue!

This evening, being creatures of habit and comfort, we headed back to that fabulous food court (staying well away from the place we’d gorged ourselves at yesterday) and ordered something different. Even when we’re handed an English menu, we still don’t know what we’re getting.
Throughout Tokyo and Osaka, we’ve seen street vendors and restaurants alike making these cute little balls. We didn’t know if they were savoury or sweet.
There was a vendor in the foodcourt that was making them so, being brave, we ordered a couple of dishes.
Even though the menu was English, it said “Takoyaki”. We don’t know what that is!
Later on, hubby googled it and we reaslied what they were. Octopus balls!!! We don’t normally eat seafood but I have to say they were soooo creamy and delicious! The only thing I could have done without was the barbeque tasting sauce that was on the top of one of our dishes.
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And each serve had eight balls so they were pretty filling!
We both felt like dumplings though and the beauty of being in a food court is that you can choose different things.. so we ordered some dumplings and some rice from another vendor (and sat at another table so hopefully no one noticed)
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The dumplings were nice but not as nice as others we’ve had. There wasn’t much filling in them but the taste was ok.
The rice was very full of flavour and crunchy!! Hubby and I had a little spat over them.
“But you said you didn’t want rice”
“I didn’t, till I knew you were getting some. How can I not eat it when you’re eating it in front of me”
“Because I wanted them. You said you didn’t”
“That was then, this is now, besides, you’re the one who always wants to share”
“And you don’t so get out of it. I got this for me”
Typical conversation between us really.

And to carry on with our bogan food theme today, we went to McDonalds to try to get a soft serve cone for dessert but they stop serving them after a certain time, so instead, we went to the convenience store and got something that kind of looked like a soft serve cone and it was delicious!! Vanilla and Coffee flavour and very creamy.

If these people didn’t all ride bikes incessantly, they’d be in trouble with all this creamy, highly processed and fatty foods!
I love it!

Turning Japanese – Part Five

I’m much more relaxed now in this wonderfully different country.
I knew exactly what to expect from our complimentary breakfast at Denny’s… and look at that meal. So Western, so good.
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You may think it’s a bit strange to have a salad at breakfast but actually I enjoyed it. You may also think it strange to have Lounge music playing while you’re eating your eggs on toast in Denny’s but that  somehow works too.
The only thing that I’m not too happy about is that the coffee they give you is an espresso size. It’s teeny tiny and I just need more coffee!! But that’s ok. I can get over it!

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Fully satisfied we headed to Shinjuku once again. Last time we were there it was evening and we were dazzled by the lights. This time it was late morning and it was still an impressive place!
We went to the Observation Deck in the Government Building then walked around being awed by sights, sounds and smells.

After a couple of hours walking thirst overtook us and hubby found a cute little place called “Brooklyn Parlour”. Once again, totally deceptive from the street. All we could see was a stairwell leading down to something. What was it going to be? No idea! It’s always an adventure.
So we went down there and were surprised by the size of the restaurant. It was large, it was loud, it was happening and it had fantastic mood lighting. The walls were lined with bookshelves creating a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone is just sooo polite and accomodating.
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We ordered a wine and cider. My wine was delicious and long overdue!!! I could have sat there sipping that for another hour or two…

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However we headed on back to our hotel – snuck in a couple of sweet treats, and rested up before heading out for our last dinner in Tokyo.

So this evening we stopped in front of a place that said it had authentic Japanese food. Not really sure what that meant, we went in.
Our waiter had limited English but we’re really happy to have anyone that can half understand us. He brought us our drinks, a hot towel and a bowl of something..
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Hubby was a bit frightened to try it but he did, and he didn’t die so i thought I’d try some. It was only afterwards that I thought… I hope we were meant to eat that? Maybe it’s for something else??
It had the consistancy of jelly. Tasted a bit like chicken broth and chicken fat. I’m not really sure but I ate it with chop sticks. I know… I’m a pro now!

We also ordered dumplings, noodles (traditional Japanese style apparantly) and skewers of meat.
When converted to Aussie dollars, it was all quite expensive and not very filling however it was very tasty and I guess it’s not their fault that the conversion rate for our dollar is not the best at the moment.

As usual the staff were bending over backwards to make sure we had the best time.
There were a line of tables around the kitchen which was in the centre of the restaurant and at one point hubby told one of the chef’s directly that he’d like a bowl of rice, and they just did it! If we weren’t being charged, it would have felt like we were dining at a friends place.

Tomorrow  we’ll be heading off to Osaka for the next leg of this adventure!